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Obama Foundation will build its own parking garage for presidential center

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The parking garage will have enough room for over 400 vehicles

Obama Foundation

While President Obama asked South Side residents to not get too hung up on details regarding parking and traffic when he first unveiled the plan for his Obama Presidential Center back in May, there have been numerous tweaks and changes made to the plan in recent months. Notably, the upcoming presidential library and museum campus will require more road closures than originally announced, and now the Obama Foundation is looking to take on constructing the center’s parking garage itself.

According to DNAinfo, Obama Foundation representatives revealed its intentions to build parking garage on the eastern end of Midway Plaisance to community leaders at a closed-door meeting this week. The parking garage will have enough room for 450 vehicles and bumps the total parkland the Obama Foundation is seeking from the 21 acres the city initially offered last year up to 35 acres, DNAinfo reports by another four or five acres. (See update at below.)

The latest site map for the Obama Presidential Center.
Obama Foundation

The changes to the Obama Presidential Center plan and the way that they are being made and presented still bothers many residents however. The group Jackson Park Watch recently sent a letter to City Hall seeking more details on the decision-making process and who is involved in the planning process for the new complex, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. In a terse tone, the letter seeks transparency on the planning, funding, and timeline for the major project.

“What groups have the Park District, the Chicago Department of Transportation, and the Obama Foundation been meeting with?” the letter asks. “How were they selected? How representative are they? And what data have they been given to review? Where is the open, public process that is appropriate for consideration of changes to public parks?”

The latest issue regarding transparency of the Obama Foundation’s decision-making and planning isn’t a first or even a second in regards to the Obama Presidential Center proposal. Earlier this year, 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston publicly rebuked the Obama Foundation in an open letter, asking for more transparency and community input in the planning process.

A detailed view of the parking structure planned for the OPC campus.
Obama Foundation

The preservationist group Preservation Chicago has also criticized the planned location of the site, suggesting that carving out the new campus will significancy alter the architectural integrity of the Fredrick Law Olmsted-designed parkland. Instead, Preservation Chicago suggested that the Obama Foundation consider a site just a few blocks away at 64th and Stony Island.

In addition, the lakefront protection group Friends of the Parks, which notoriously halted George Lucas’s museum plan for Chicago, has called for a “transparent, comprehensive park planning process” for both the Obama Presidential Center and the Jackson Park golf course overhaul.

Update: Obama Foundation reps reached out to clarify that the plan for the primary OPC campus in Jackson Park is still expected to fall under the 21 acres offered by the city, however the new plan for the parking garage on the Midway Plaisance will add an addition four or five acres to the OPC bringing its total size to somewhere in the 25-26 acre range.